Read any good books lately?
August 21, 2008
They don't call this the dog days of summer for nothing. Between listening to the daily blather of presidential election year politics, counting the mounting number of foreclosed homes in our town, and watching our retirement accounts deflate, there hasn't been much going on with us. If we had a dog we could write about him... or her. But seeing as we don't, and our cats don't partake in many doglike activities, we'll just have to focus on doggerel of a different variety.
Let's start with books. Not the ones we'd like to write, but those that are already published and piling up like stacks of bricks around our house. We're constantly bringing home new reading material, much of it hardback fiction and paperback romances, which finds its way into various corners of the house until we find time or energy to read it. We know we're falling behind when the stacks of unread material are in some cases taller than we are.
Such was the case in our bedroom, where more than four dozen titles were lined up along Glenn's side of the bed, blotting out the light from the window and blocking our path through the room. So it was one recent Saturday morning that Glenn went through the pile and relocated it to the writing sanctuary, which won't leave them any less in the way, but at least they are no longer in the bedroom. Alice McDermott, Gregg Olsen, J.A. Jance, Ray Bradbury and a host of other fine authors now occupy a new space on the floor next to the computer on which this newsletter is being composed, so if we're a little later getting this out than usual, it's probably because we've become distracted trying to read the backlog. Not that there's any danger of plowing through it any time soon; at the rate Glenn reads novels, that pile might last him the next 10 years.
Not that Roni is faring much better. While she consumes novel-length stories at the rate of about two a day, the detritus from that habit is enough to fill a couple of bookcases and several large storage containers. There are also cardboard boxes, decorative baskets and dark spaces under desks and tables that have been filled with the likes of Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Diana Palmer and Tami Hoag. Where to store all those books that she doesn't have the heart to get rid of once they're read has been an ongoing question. We sometimes joke that if we ever add on to the house it will be to provide additional shelf space for reading addictions. Fortunately, since Roni discovered the joys of e-books, most of the stories she reads fit comfortably on a compact disc or the hard drive of her laptop.
There has been plenty of time for summer beach reading this month, even if we don't have a beach handy on which to lounge. A lot of folks take their vacations around August for the very reason that nothing else is going on. We might too, if not for the fact that school is year-round here, and Ben started back to his on July 28. After nearly four weeks Ben is finally getting into the routine of high school, while Roni is adjusting to rising earlier each weekday morning to get him to class by 8:15. Freedom High School's classrooms are built in a series of pods around which students' schedules tend to be clustered. Ben is in one of the pods while several of his junior high friends are in a different pod, which makes it tough to hang out with his buddies except during lunch and after school in the library, where Ben has been going to socialize at the end of the day.
The Freedom campus serves about 3,000 students, so there is quite a traffic jam in the afternoon when parents arrive to pick up their kids. Roni discovered quickly that she might have to park a quarter mile away to wait in line with dozens of other cars, leaving Ben to hunt for her, or her for him if he isn't waiting on the curb when she reaches the front of the line. She solved this problem by purchasing a cheap pair of walkie talkies that they use to pinpoint their locations for one another. That will probably work well until the fateful day when Ben demands his own cell phone.
Another place those walkie talkies would have been useful was on our July 27 visit to the Delta Pear Fair in Courtland. If you've been reading our newsletters over the past 10 years, you already know that attending the Pear Fair is an annual tradition for us, one we've faithfully upheld since 1988 with the exception of 1993, when we skipped it to take part in the cookoff at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. In all that time the festival has adhered to its small town roots, never pretending to be anything other than what it is a chance to eat food, listen to live music, and celebrate the tiny Delta town's agricultural heritage in the company of friends.
Ben's of the age now that the idea of pear ice cream, pear pie, carnival games and craft booths doesn't rate very high on the coolness scale. But he indulged Mom and Dad for the day, which turned out to be typically hot and crowded. Lots of folks come to the fair just so they can watch the famous Pear Parade. It never attracts more than a couple dozen entries, and they all back up around the block while each member of the fair's royal court, dance group and classic car pauses in front of the judging stand. In fact, one could walk from the front of the parade to the back in about five minutes and see all the entries instead of waiting the 20 minutes it usually takes for them to pass a stationary viewing position.
We hung around for the parade, then made our way to the food booths and collected our pear pie to take home. We were in plenty of time to get the pie, but not the pear bread that the Lions Club was selling by the loaf. Folks snapped up the last of the bread as soon as the parade was done. We consoled ourselves with pear ice cream, a sugary sweet sendoff for the hot drive home. We left with full stomachs, our commemorative yellow pear pins tacked to our clothes, and a few more memories to file away in the family album.
Aside from that brief spurt of heat at the end of July, this summer has been downright cool. Not that we're complaining, but you expect triple digits in July and August, yet we've been lucky to get into the 90s most days. That was especially a blessing earlier this month when BNSF decided to spend about a week doing repair work on the railroad crossing behind our house. We barely notice the freight trains most days, but it's hard to ignore heavy equipment and work crews raising a racket for several nights in a row. And yes, they did the majority of the work at night, until about 3 o'clock in the morning. We had to keep the doors and windows closed to escape the clamor.
Adding to the nuisance, the workers set up floodlights on tall poles that in addition to lighting their workspace also managed to light up our backyard to near-daylight intesity. For three nights the lights were visible all the way from the Highway 160 freeway some three miles away, brighter than anything else in Oakley. We never realized how many insects are about at night. Hundreds of them were drawn to the light, where they made easy prey for a number of small birds that took advantage of the free meal. We tried to determine if the birds were possibly bats, but they flew too high and quickly for us to make out more than silhouettes.
Speaking of birds, the mourning doves have been busy procreating in our yard once again. This time they returned to nest in the hanging basket on our pergola, which had been their nesting spot of choice before it fell from its hook back in March and took a couple of unhatched eggs with it. No such mishaps this time, fortunately. We first noticed them settling in on July 12, and on July 31 we caught our first glimpse of the new brood. The two babies grew rather quickly, and after a week of hanging out in the nest with their parents, they departed for the big world beyond. We think this will be the last brood of the season, but after three years they seem to have no trouble finding us and will undoubtedly return next spring.
Our garden is on the wane after a couple successful months. We enjoyed our own corn, beans and jalapeñ o peppers, and lately we're still reaping the benefits of a bumper crop of tomatoes. Roni had good luck with her herb barrels, but less success with peas, onions, watermelon and cucumbers, none of which seemed to grow much beyond seedlings. Several pumpkin vines have put out long vines, but we have yet to see flowers or fruit and it's getting late in the season. Our latest gardening triumph has been several sunflowers that Roni grew from seed maturing to their full glory. Their big yellow blossoms really brightened up the yard for a couple of weeks before they began to sag under the weight of their swelling seed heads. What we don't save for next year's crop we'll likely put out for the birds, which can't seem to get enough of the commercial feed we buy for them from the grocery store. The birds may actually eat better than we do!
That's about it for this month. Now it's back to watching the Olympics and trying to find a home for all those displaced books.
Glenn, Roni and Ben